01 February 2006

UFFStand Down 'Well Off The Mark' - Derry Loyalist

Derry Journal

Tuesday 31st January 2006

Reports that the Ulster Freedom Fighters are preparing to stand down are well off the mark, according to a Derry loyalist. David Nicholl, of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), the political wing of the UDA/UFF, has told the 'Journal' that any possibility of such a move remains well in the future.

"In my my view, from working with and in the loyalist community, it is clear that the UDA is some way off making a decision on any new terms." Internal discussions have been taking place within both the UDA and UVF on their futures, following recent moves by the Provisional IRA. Mr. Nicholl said he believes the UDA will not make any groundbreaking announcements in the near future "based on the reality that the IRA still exist and have not disbanded" and the fact that various dissident republican groups remain active. He further pointed to the failure of the " mainstream republican" INLA to engage with General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body.

However, Mr Nicholl has acknowledged that UDA talks with the British Government over the next eight weeks may yield incentives --including heavy investment in deprived loyalist areas --for loyalism to move forward. It's understood that a number of announcements from the Government on progress in loyalist communities are imminent, prompting talk of possible decommissioning among loyalist paramilitaries. However, Mr Nicholl said the fact that "no movement" to improve the lot of working class loyalist areas ruled out the possibility of major decisions being made on the future UDA.

"These talks could help create an environment where all elements of loyalism can be brought together and informed decisions can be made but we'll have to see how that goes. "There is also requirement for the political institutions to be up and running," he said. He added that the mainstream unionist parties must sing from the same hymn sheet to reunite unionism - "to build confidence in loyalism, to say that loyalism is safe and the union is safe."

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